Europe's top holiday islands revealed

By Simon Calder

Readers of Conde Nast Traveler have rated their top 10 European islands.

Scotland's Isle of Skye has made Conde Nast Traveler's list of Europe's top island destinations. Photo / Wikimedia Commons image by Bob Jones
Scotland's Isle of Skye has made Conde Nast Traveler's list of Europe's top island destinations. Photo / Wikimedia Commons image by Bob Jones

Despite the howling winds and roaring waves described in the Skye Boat Song, which recalled the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie to its shores after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland's second-largest island has triumphed over Sicily in a leading travel poll.

Skye was voted one of Europe's top island destinations by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, scoring an "index of satisfaction" higher than that of the rather more sunny Sicily, as well as Hvar in Croatia.

As half-term begins for many British schools, the timing is the third piece of good fortune in the last few days for Skye.

At the weekend, a credit-card company - Santander Cards - revealed the extent of price increases for overseas package holidays during school holidays. At the same time, viewers of news programmes across Britain were treated to hours of Skye scenery. Muscular hills daubed with autumn, and the serrated shore, featured as the handsome backdrop to coverage of the stricken nuclear submarine, HMS Astute.

Despite the lyrical predictions in the traditional song, thunderclouds did not rend the air, and cutaways featuring the once-controversial Skye Bridge provided a subconscious reminder of the island's accessibility.

The mainland side of the bridge begins at the point where one of Britain's finest railway lines - from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh - ends. The bridge carries the A87 over the sea to Skye.

The main road across the island is a great drive, staying close to the dramatic shore for most of the distance to the diminutive capital, Portree, but cutting through Glen Varrahill for the last nine miles. From here, the visitor can continue on to the port of Uig and a ferry to the biggest Scottish island, Harris and Lewis; or explore tiny coastal settlements with outlandish names: Bornesketaig, Valtos and Tote.

Equally tempting is the relatively tropical south of the island: even at 57 degrees north, about the same as Alaska's capital, this part of Skye enjoys a benevolent climate.

From Armadale, Caledonian Macbrayne ferries sail over the sea from Skye to Mallaig - one end of Scotland's other great railway, the West Highland Line.

There is no doubt that, when the sun shines, Skye is an island worthy of its new status among European travellers.

In the meantime, however, Sicily might be a better bet this European winter.

CONDE NAST TRAVELER'S TOP 10 ISLANDS IN EUROPE

1. Mykonos, Greece
2. Bozcaada, Turkey
3. Ibiza, Spain
4. Capri, Italy
5. Madeira, Portugal
6. Mallorca, Spain
7. Murano, Italy
8. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
9. Sicily, Italy
10. Hvar, Croatia

- INDEPENDENT

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